With a daughter of six months, parenting and parenting-affecting articles are stored up for miles in Pocket. Growing up on the farm, I never experienced a single allergy. Not sure if those are directly related, but my parents never feared those kind of things like suburbanites today do. A new study shows that we might have an easy way to prevent these peanut allergies: feed peanuts to our babies.
Although evidence has continued to mount, even 8 or 10 years ago avoidance was already being called into question. So Lack and his colleagues set out to test whether feeding babies and young children peanut products might help them learn to tolerate the peanut protein, inhibiting an allergy. All the babies were between 4 and 11 months old when they were enrolled, and all had either an egg allergy, severe eczema, or both—putting them at high risk of a peanut allergy down the road. Indeed, 98 of them were already heading in that direction: They tested positive for mild peanut sensitivity in a skin-prick test. This meant that these babies were already churning out antibodies to the peanut protein. Eating peanuts in the future could set off an allergic reaction.
The team divided the babies into two groups. Half were to avoid eating peanut products until they were 5 years old. The other half received at least 6 grams of peanut protein a week, spread across at least three meals, until they were 5 years old. Bamba was the preferred offering, though picky eaters who rejected it got smooth peanut butter.
Around the 5th birthdays of the trial subjects came the big test. The children consumed a larger peanut portion than they were used to in one sitting, and the results were clear-cut. Among 530 children who had had a negative skin-prick test when they were babies, 14% who avoided peanuts were allergic to them, compared with 2% of those who’d been eating them. In the even higher risk group, the children who were sensitized, 35% of the peanut-avoiders were allergic versus just over 10% of the peanut eaters.